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Mar 10

The William Rehnquist you didn’t know

The ABA journal has an interesting article about the late Chief Justice Rehnquist.  I’m not sure I could picture what a CJ’s weekend would look like, but in any event, this wasn’t it.

Bill’s loneliness after the death of his wife, Nan, in 1991 was apparent to anybody who saw him regularly. He did not try to hide it.

At our Sunday morning tennis games, I could tell that Saturday nights were the loneliest of the week for him. After routine greetings, he would almost always ask what my wife, Betty Nan, and I had done the previous evening. I would describe a typical suburban couple’s Saturday night (dinner with friends, neighborhood party, movies, a charity event, etc.). Bill would then sometimes tell me about a quasi-official party that sounded glamorous but that he found tedious. More often he would describe a dinner of hot dogs, canned vegetables and ice cream followed by an evening with the TV remote. (For more than a dozen years he prepared most of his own meals, but he always considered cooking a chore, rather than a creative pleasure.)

Quite sad, but very human. It turns out that the Chief Justice loved to bet, as well:

Betty Nan, Bill and I began betting on elections shortly after the death of Bill’s wife, Nan, in 1991. In the beginning, it was simple. We each bet $1 on one or two close races, shook hands and paid off the next time we had dinner together. But in a few years, without deliberate planning, the scope of our betting expanded. The money involved remained insignificant. The wagering terms, however, became complicated. On some Election Days we each wagered a dollar on two dozen or more individual races. To add complexity and variety to our game, we changed the terms regularly. Sometimes we simply chose a winner. More often we wagered on spread, voter percentage or by what percentage each party would win in a legislature.

After our election cards grew lengthy and complicated, it became necessary to record our bets in writing. Conversation on movie dates during October often focused on how we would organize our betting cards for an upcoming election. The arrangement by which we exchanged our picks was efficient and easy. Betty Nan and I faxed our selections to Bill’s secretary and, after receiving our choices, she faxed Bill’s to us. This allowed the bettors to keep their choices secret.

I had some reticence about using the chambers of the chief justice of the United States as a betting parlor. But when I questioned Bill about it, he brushed me aside. “Janet loves being part of all this,” he explained.

Full article is here.

  8:11pm  •  Law  •   •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment